By Jenelyn Russo     1/14/2015

Being a top-tier athlete requires not just the skills of the sport but the leadership ability to guide fellow teammates through the mental side of the game, the part that is often the most challenging to navigate.

That’s the learning curve basketball player Emily Arellanes is experiencing in her senior year at Rosary High School. The four-year varsity player and all-county selection has been on the court since first grade and has been a perennial point leader and playmaker offensively for the Royals. But with the loss of some key leaders last season to graduation, Arellanes has been called upon to fill that leadership void on their young team.

“It’s been a little bit rough for the team and for me,” admits the 17-year-old. “Personally, my goals are to just step up and be a leader.”

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Arellanes is working hard to inspire the younger players to play their best each game. She cites a four-point loss to JSerra Catholic High School last season, a game she says felt more like a win because of Rosary’s on-court performance, as a benchmark for the effort she’d like to see from the Royals this season in the highly competitive Trinity League.

“My goals for the team are to beat the teams that we should beat, have a great game every time, regardless of who we play, and hope to have a chance at CIF,” says Arellanes.

Varsity basketball head coach Richard Yoon has the utmost confidence in his star player as she works to refine her role.

“Emily will have more responsibility, but will be ready to step up to the challenge,” says Yoon. “Playing in one of the toughest leagues in the state, she knows what it takes to succeed. She is a hard worker and always wants to get better. She looks out for others and honestly wants the best for others.”

Grateful for the chance to play, Arellanes acknowledges the life skills the game she loves has taught her.

“The game of basketball has taught me so much, especially here at Rosary, how to communicate and how to work hard both on and off the court,” says Arellanes. “Having those attributes has been great for me because I see it in my school work as well as on the court.”

With goals for college that include studying architecture as well as continuing to play basketball, the Whittier resident is eyeing some West Coast schools as possible next steps in her academic and athletic careers.

But she won’t soon forget her years as a Royal, where teammates feel more like family.

“I love representing Rosary,” says Arellanes. “Competing for my school has been great. We have such a family aspect there. Wherever I end up, hopefully I’ll get that there as well.”